Star Crossed Lovers
You are a Hero summoned to deal with the Demon King. After fighting your way through hordes of the Demon King's minions, you find yourself face-to-face with the Demon King. They're from the planet you were summoned from, and your most fond person.
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Paladin climbed the steps to the Demon King’s castle, his knuckles white on the hilt of his blade. Once the mightiest sea in Decipere, the desert stretched for miles far below, beyond where the black sky met the barren earth. Twisted trees stripped of green filled what had been a forest on the cliff. Every minute in the Demon King’s wasteland a reminder of all the hurt he caused. Every second was a reminder of Paladin’s duty.
Every step was one closer to home.
His lone heartbeat in this desolate place urged him onward. Three years ago, the desperate citizens of Decipere summoned Paladin to their aid. The Demon King unleashed hordes on the land, conquering nations, turning them into wastes, and slaughtering thousands. Those who survived ran, but the Demon King’s reach expanded to the globe. In the end, they hid in camps in sacred places where even the most vile creatures of hell dare not tread. The people of Decipere prayed and wished and hoped upon the final star in the night sky.
Paladin was their last hope.
He reminded himself of that every night when the cold set in his bones. He reminded himself every time he fought a demon. And when his mentor, Logan, fell to the horde. And when Kyrie lost herself to darkness. When an entire village burned because of his mistake.
Paladin was their last hope. If he wished to free the people of Decipere from tyranny, if he wished to see home again, he would need to kill the Demon King.
He paused at the door to the keep, a large stone thing of ancient Leogere construction. Few buildings like it existed anymore, either fallen to time or the tyrant, but those that stood were places of great power. If Paladin were to kill the Demon King, it would be here, where his power was greatest.
Paladin pointed his sword to Hearth, to home, charging the runeblade with the star’s magic.
Then he stepped inside.
The room was dark. No surprise. Legends said the dark magic claimed his eyes long ago. Even if they were wrong, shadow sight was minor magic. Paladin could perform the trick himself, if he so wished, but there was no need. He trained with the monks of Ludere. Were he deaf and blind, he could fight as well as any soldier.
Paladin made note of the shadowy details of the great room, not that there were many. The room was almost as barren as the wasteland outside, save for the few banners covering any possible window and the sconces placed on buttresses. At the far end, on his throne of skulls, sat the Demon King.
“So, you have come at last,” said the Demon King, his tone almost bored. His voice echoed off the stone walls. Paladin pointed his sword at the Demon King. “Am I to meet my end, Paladin?”
Paladin hesitated. The Demon King had spoken the exact words he’d thought. There were rumors that the tyrant could read minds, but few survived the Demon King and fewer were in a state of coherency. Paladin had taken precautions against this power just in case. He doubted there was any real threat to his mind, so long as he stood and breathed.
Paladin had another concern. His voice was familiar.
“I am their final hope,” Paladin told himself. Feeling the resolve, he tightened his grip on his blade and took a step toward the Demon King. The charged magic hummed beneath his fingertips. “Your curse upon this world has gone on long enough. It ends today.”
“No, my dear Paladin, it doesn’t.”
Paladin saw his adversary twitch and managed to call upon his magic before the impact hit. It would be too weak to cause any real damage, but hopefully it would prevent the Demon King from following up his attack before Paladin could recover. A wave of force knocked Paladin backwards, flinging him through the air with the ease of a man tossing a ball. Starlight filled the room as a thin beam followed Paladin’s blade as he tumbled through the air. The stone cracked on the floor, wall, and ceiling and the arm of the Demon King’s throne fell to the ground. The tyrant himself lay on the floor where he had flung himself out of the magic’s path.
Both recovered at the same time, standing on opposite ends of the hall. A rune had dimmed on Paladin’s sword, reminding him of his limit. Once the power was gone, he would have nothing more than his martial skills and the few spells he memorized.
It wouldn’t be enough to kill the Demon King.
Once again, the Demon King fired another wave of force at Paladin, but he was ready this time, planting his feet firmly on the ground and bracing himself with magic. The force loosened his helmet and flare his cloak, but nothing more. The Demon King followed his magic with a heavy strike from his axe, closing the distance too quickly for a human. The dust had barely cleared, and Paladin was on the defensive.
He deflected the Demon King’s axe with his blade. He attempted to retaliate but noticed the Demon King’s clenched fist in time to dodge back. Fire filled the space between them, where Paladin’s head once was. The heat cascaded over his body.
Calling on his training, Paladin fixed his footing, deflecting the Demon King’s strikes and dodging magic. Each attack started before the last was complete, leaving no gaps for Paladin to use. Each was too close and too well placed. The pair found a rhythm, turning the fight into a dance.
A single mistake would cost Paladin his life. He bided his time. To say they were evenly matched was generous to Paladin, but he held his own. Then, as the Demon King, recoiled from a particularly well timed block, Paladin saw his chance. He closed the distance, ramming his shoulder into the Demon King’s masked face. Knowing this would likely be his last chance, that if he didn’t make this blow lethal, he would die, Paladin called all the remaining magic into his runeblade brought the charged blade down.
He saw the smile beneath the crack too late.
The Demon King released a wave of force. Unlike his earlier attacks, this was directionless, expanding in all directions with explosive force. Paladin couldn’t counter it quickly enough. The runeblade went flying, tearing the room apart with his starlight beam, narrowly missing the two combatants. Paladin landed on his back hard. He grunted in pain as all the air left his body. His helmet and pauldrons and every loosely strapped piece of armor flew off.
He knew he was defeated.
The final blow never came. Paladin slowly rose to his feet, trying his best to ignore the throbbing in his head. His vision slowly cleared and he saw the Demon King standing there, exposed lips trembling. The Demon King’s axe law on the ground. For a moment, Paladin thought he’d won. Somehow, his sword’s magic had cut through the Demon King, vanquishing his foe once and for all.
But no, he wouldn’t be so lucky.
“Bailey,” the Demon King said in a whisper, carried to Paladin’s ears on a soft whisper.
Paladin felt his heart skip a beat. He was beaten, bruised, and disarmed, but hearing that word - that voice - defeated him. He dropped his arms to his side, staring at the Demon King with tears in his eyes. The Demon King lifted his mask, but Paladin didn’t need to see his face. He already knew.
The two men approached cautiously, in disbelief of the sight before their eyes. Bailey took Isaac into his arms, wrapping the man into a tight embrace, ignoring his pained grunts and suppressing his own body’s screams as Isaac returned the hug. His body ached, but it was nothing compared to the ache that he carried in his heart for five years. Though they both looked different, older and more muscular, Isaac looked the same to Bailey. Bailey looked the same to Isaac.
They stared into each other’s eyes for too long. With too many questions and too complex answers, they settled for silent admiration. Isaac ran his hand along Bailey’s chin, appreciating the rough feel of his stubble. Bailey held Isaac. Finally, unable to resist any longer, they kissed for the first time in almost half a decade. It wasn’t the answer to their questions, but it was enough for now. For the first time in years, Bailey’s heart was light.
He knew he would be going home.
Isaac knew he wouldn’t.